The third placed Western Magpies will be strengthened by the return of four key players for their important clash with second-placed Morningside Panthers at Hawthorne on Saturday.
Co-captains and hard nuts Lachlan Woods and Callum Carseldine return to the midfield after injury, the versatile Val Pope returns to the forward line after missing a couple of matches through work and Sunny Aneet comes back onto a wing after missing last week due to family commitments.
The unlucky outs are Sean McEvoy, Bryce Crossley, Jae Humphrey and Riley Easton. They have all been good players in recent matches but have been squeezed out and it shows the depth of the Pies this season. McEvoy is a victim of too many talls in defence as Luke Scott moves back to a familiar role and Richard Wenham takes one of the Morningside small forwards.
The Magpies were unlucky not to upset the Panthers in round one and most pundits were wondering if this was a false dawn for the Pies and they just happened to catch the 2014 undefeated Premiers off-guard. A shellacking from flag favourites Labrador a week later had the doubters in full song but since then the Pies have won 6 in a row and have gone from strength to strength. This Saturday provides the first of three tests of the Magpies' premiership credentials as they play undefeated Labrador and fourth placed Wilston-Grange in the following weeks.
The Pies defence has been miserly for all but one match this season with Matt Davis arguably leading the B & F voting at this stage and Doug Lawrence at CHB has played well in all matches and shows maturity in the role. Chris Hunt moves to fullback and Luke Scott to half back adding to the versatility and rebound of the back line. Luke Mitchell has done well on the opposition smalls and also provides run from defence.
Brady Allen in a new role on a wing has developed the fitness and consistency to be a key player and was rewarded with this week's QAFL Rising Star award.
Tom Ielasi is playing the best football of his career, applying plenty of forward pressure and winning plenty of midfield possessions. Tim McEvoy has been solid all year and was back to his best last week.
Full forward Alex Dickfos was underdone in the first clash with the Panthers and with 18 goals in the past 3 matches will pose a new threat to the Panthers and Tom Michael, who did not play in round one, also adds strength to the Pies forward half.
With Drew Mitchell and Ben Jaenke-Cain both in fine form and the return of Carseldine, Woods and Pope to the midfield, the Pies will look to more than match the home side in the onball division. Hayden Thick and Dom Beer are forming a formidable ruck duo and the Pies look a much better outfit than in round one.
The Magpies will be full of confidence going into the clash and will look forward to more than matching it with one of the QAFL powerhouses. A win in this clash will establish the Pies as a genuine premiership contender.
Western Magpies vs Morningside Panthers at Hawthorne, Saturday June 27 @ 2pm
B: Richard Wenham - Chris Hunt - Luke Mitchell
HB: Matt Davis - Doug Lawrence - Luke Scott
C: Brady Allen - Ben Jeanke-Cain - Majok Aneet
HF: Val Pope - Tom Michael (R) - Sam Copland
F: Tom Ielasi - Alex Dickfos - Jak Williams (R)
Foll: Dom Beer - Drew Mitchell - Callum Carseldine (C)
Int: Lachland Woods (C) - Hayden Thick - Brodie Easton - Tim McEvoy